What Is a Need?

A need is a fundamental requirement that must be met for survival or to achieve a desired level of satisfaction, functioning or well-being. Needs are universal but can vary in intensity and importance, ranging from the physiological (e.g. food and water) through the psychological (e.g. belonging and esteem) to the societal or self-actualization. Although the academic model of human needs developed by psychologist Abraham Maslow is widely accepted, identifying and satisfying these needs is not necessarily easy.

The use of the term need is sometimes disputed, with some experts noting that the word lacks the emotional impact of the more emotive terms want or necessity. Other commentators point out that the need/necessity distinction is based on the context and meaning of the words, and that there are many situations in which both may be valid choices.

Another question about the term need concerns whether or not it should include a psychological component, with some commentators arguing that it does not. In general, however, there is broad consensus that there are a set of basic human needs, such as food, shelter and medical care. The societal and psychological needs, such as belonging and esteem, are more difficult to define and satisfy.

In addition to a distinction between needs and wants, there is also a difference in how they are classified and how people prioritize them. For example, some experts argue that the need to achieve self-actualization is a higher priority than the need for belonging and esteem, while others disagree. In the end, it is a personal decision and depends on a person’s circumstances and goals.

Often, it is useful to divide budget categories into “fixed” and “non-fixed” needs, with the former encompassing the more vital of expenses such as food, shelter and medical care, while the latter includes everything else. This can make creating a budget easier, as it is then possible to identify which items are merely luxuries or status symbols and which are truly essentials.

There are some guidelines that can be used in deciding when to use the article the, with some exceptions for certain nouns, such as names of counties, states or countries, cities, regions and continents. In most cases, these nouns will need the article when they refer to a specific location that is not generally known or familiar to the reader.

Other examples of nouns that do not need the article include sports, languages and meals. When a particular noun is general or common, the word some can be used instead. In addition, some nouns do not require an article at all, such as names of rivers, lakes and oceans. Finally, the article a is also used to indicate an indefinite article, which is necessary for certain nouns. For example, a giraffe can be described as either being a tall giraffe or a short giraffe. Similarly, a historic building can be described as being either a historical building or an historic building.